Food Prep

This is the key to making perfect pancakes every time

Live a little. Try using coconut oil instead of butter.

Live a little. Try using coconut oil instead of butter.  (Birkholz)

Pancakes are, if we're being real, a vehicle for butter, which typically gives them flavor in three ways. 

It's in the batter, melted. It's what the cakes are fried in. And a pat goes atop the finished product, along with the sweetener of one's choice. 

But the hard truth is that butter is not particularly well-equipped for one of those applications: frying. Who hasn’t spent a weekend morning laboring over a hot cast-iron skillet, waiting for the pancakes to finish cooking while butter sputters and smokes around their edges?

Blame it on the protein. 

As Serious Eats explains, butter contains fat, water, and protein; when it's melted the water evaporates (it's the thing that causes butter to foam if you cook it on the stove for a while) but the proteins, having nowhere else to go, break down and burn. That's why clarified butter is good for high-heat stovetop cooking: the proteins have been previously removed, and what's left is pure butterfat.

But please: clarified butter is a bridge too far for a Sunday morning. And I know a guy who thinks he has a better idea.

"I'm very passionate about my pancakes philosophy, which is that pancakes need a lot of fat," said David Tamarkin, Epicurious editor and a dogged student of pancake technique, just the other day. 

There's another way.

He's been struggling with figuring out the perfect medium for pancake cooking and recently seized on coconut oil—unrefined coconut oil, specifically. As suggested, he uses quite a bit of it—about 2 tablespoons per batch; you could use a little less if you wanted, but not skimping on fat helps ensure the pancakes will be nice and crisp around the edges, still pillowy inside. It's the weekend.

The coconut oil also adds a faint but pleasant coconut sweetness. Nothing overpowering—and remember, there's still a lot of butter involved here—but nothing burned, either. Apply this principle to French toast, too—even waffles—and breathe easier over breakfast.